However, coach Mark Fox has recently seen the sophomore develop into an even better player.
Caldwell-Pope scored 22 points to lead Georgia to a 59-52 win over slumping Texas A&M on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between these new Southeastern Conference foes.
“He’s really been starting to mature as a player,” Fox said. “He’s becoming a more efficient scorer. He’s a good rebounder. (Saturday), he defended for us. He played very soundly in all facets of the game.”
Sherrard Brantley had two 3-pointers during a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs to start the second half, giving Georgia its biggest lead.
The Bulldogs had to fight off a late rally by Texas A&M for the victory. The Aggies cut it to three points with a minute left on a layup by Kourtney Roberson, but the Bulldogs scored the last four points of the game to secure the win.
“Our defense kind of went south, but we were able to get back focused and hold onto the lead,” Caldwell-Pope said.
Georgia (8-11, 2-4 SEC) got back on track after a loss to No. 8 Florida. The Aggies extended their losing streak to a season-long four games.
Elston Turner’s 19 points led Texas A&M (12-7, 2-4).
It was Georgia’s first win on the road, after dropping its first four away from Athens.
“It was amazing. Winning on the road is a great feeling,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We wanted to come in here and accomplish that and we did.”
Fox said winning in a tough environment is a good step in the maturation of his young team.
“This group is continuing to learn how to win,” he said. “(We’re) working on all those experiences that you need to become consistently good.”
The Bulldogs were up by 15 after a tip-in by Caldwell-Pope with just under nine minutes remaining. The Aggies used an 8-0 spurt, fueled by five points from Fabyon Harris and helped by stifling man-to-man defense, to cut the lead to 50-43 about three minutes later.
Georgia broke a more than 3½-minute scoring drought with a basket before Texas A&M added five quick points, capped by a 3-pointer from Harris to make it 52-48 with four minutes to play.
Caldwell-Pope made 3-pointer before the Aggies added four points to make it 55-52 with about a minute left.
“He likes big moments, and he got a really good screen there, found himself open and made a big basket,” Fox said of Caldwell-Pope.
The Aggies believe that was the key play in the game.
“We were coming back and when he hit that 3 it kind of broke our backs,” Harris said.
Texas A&M shot under 34 percent from the field, and made just 12 of 23 free throws.
“When you miss free throws and miss opportunities to score, you put so much pressure on your defense, and Georgia was able to take advantage of it,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
Caldwell-Pope, who has led the Bulldogs in scoring in 17 of their 19 games, was their only player in double figures. He also led the team with nine rebounds and had two steals and a block.
Harris added 13 for Texas A&M, and he and Turner both had three 3-pointers.
Roberson got Texas A&M within a basket with a steal and dunk to start the second half, but Georgia scored eight straight points after that, highlighted by 3-pointers from Vincent Williams and Brantley to extend the lead to 35-25.
Andrew Young then made two free throws for the Aggies. The Bulldogs hot 3-point shooting continued after that with Caldwell-Pope and Brantley making consecutive threes before a lay-up by Caldwell-Pope pushed the advantage to 43-27 five minutes into the half.
Saturday was just the fifth time Georgia had ever played in College Station. It was their first trip to the state of Texas since facing the Longhorns in 1998.
The Bulldogs were up by two points with about 6½ minutes left in the first half before using an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 27-17. Caldwell-Pope had a 3-pointer in that span, and Charles Mann capped it with a pair of free throws.
Texas A&M responded by scoring six straight points, ending with a steal and dunk by Alex Caruso to cut the lead to 27-23 at halftime.